Q: Are vaginal dryness and painful intercourse common symptoms of menopause? Is there anything I can do about it?
Vaginal dryness and painful intercourse are common symptoms of menopause and are experienced by many postmenopausal women. In a survey of women ages 40 to 84, more than half of those who had reached menopause reported having experienced vaginal dryness and one quarter had experienced painful intercourse. These symptoms result from declining estrogen levels, which leave the vagina less flexible and moisturized than it was in its younger days. During menopause, when estrogen levels start to drop, the vaginal walls become thinner, less elastic and less lubricated. This can result in a number of symptoms, including vaginal dryness and dyspareunia – or pain during sexual intercourse – which is said to be one of the most bothersome vaginal symptoms of menopause. Decreased lubrication can also cause discomfort, bleeding and tearing of the vaginal tissues during intercourse. Once your estrogen levels sink low enough to cause vaginal dryness, they will not rise again without intervention.
The good news is that vaginal dryness and painful intercourse due to menopause are treatable. There are several treatment options for vaginal dryness, including lubricants, moisturizers and estrogen therapy. After discussing your symptoms, individual medical history and treatment goals, you and your health care professional can determine the treatment approach that is appropriate for you.
The first step to finding relief of vaginal dryness and painful intercourse is speaking to your health care professional about your symptoms, so make an appointment and start the conversation.